Reflecting on My Trip

100_6698The month I spent in Europe was everything I expected it to be and more! While from the start I knew my trip was going to be an adventure I never could have guessed the impact that it had on my life. While preparing for the trip I was terribly excited and also quite terrified. This was my first time leaving the country and I didn’t know what to expect. In all my years of foreign languages classes we have talked about differences in culture and the concept of culture shock but I realized it was something better experienced that simply speculated.


2013-05-25 11.10.55When Claire and I decided to make our first stop Rome my fear was amplified but so was my excitement. We knew Rome was going to be a culture shock! And it was! The Italian people did not understand us. At first I found myself wanting to talk to them like you would to someone hard of hearing. Speak louder and more clearly. This method did not work. Luckily we managed to navigate Rome and communicate enough to enjoy our visit.


100_6565My month in Europe gave me a lot of confidence. All of the challenges I was able to overcome really amazed me. I have never felt so independent. As crazy or cliché as it may sound this trip really helped me to understand just exactly what I am capable of achieving. I feel empowered. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to spend the time I spent abroad. I tried new things. I met new people. I went outside my comfort zone. I experienced life like I never had before. Literally every day was something new and exciting. This was a great trip.



The American Cemetery at Normandy


Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.'s grave site

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.’s grave site

On June 12, we visited the US cemetery at Normandy, which is located behind the Omaha Beach invasion site.  It was a very surreal moment seeing all of the white crosses and Stars of David all lined up.  The gravestones are lined up so that they are always in a row no matter which way you are facing them.  If you view them from the side, at an angle, or straight ahead they will always line up with the ones following it.

Gravestones of US soldiers

Gravestones of US soldiers

This is not unusual for an American military cemetery.  Anyone who has been to Arlington National Cemetery will find that the gravestones line up exactly like the ones at Arlington.

The area where the cemetery is located is very beautiful, especially with the ocean in the background.   Located in the center of the cemetery is a chapel. It is not a place to sit down and have service, but it is a place to visit that honors the sacrifices of these men no matter what religion they may have been.  At the front of the cemetery there is a giant monument dedicated to the Normandy invasion and the European theater on either side of the walls.  Just behind this monument is a wall with all of the men still missing from the landings at Normandy.

Fallen soldiers still protecting our flag

Fallen soldiers still protecting our flag

Many people come to visit the cemetery every year.  The people who visit are not just Americans, but they come from all over the world to honor these brave men who gave their lives for freedom.  One of the most visited sites at the cemetery is the grave of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.  He is buried alongside his brother Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed during World War I.  His grave and his brother’s grave are roped off from the public to help keep them intact. Otherwise the grass around them would be destroyed due to the high foot traffic.

The whole experience at the cemetery was sad.  There were so many graves (around 9,000).

An unknown US soldier

An unknown US soldier

Not all of them are from the Normandy landings. Some are from other locations during the fighting in the Normandy area following the landings.  Many of the families had their relatives sent back home once they had fallen in battle, so the cemetery is not as big as it would be if all of the men who had fallen were still buried there.  Any American who is in Europe needs to go and see the cemetery because these men not only gave their lives for them, but for the people of Europe too.  They need to be remembered and honored by not just the Americans, but by the people of the world.



The Vel d’Hiv Roundup–by Will Hays

I was not sure exactly what to expect upon leaving Gare de l’Est Wednesday morning. However, after our morning activities and our break had passed, I found myself with the group at a particular monument next to the Eiffel Tower.  The monument was erected in memory of the disturbing events that occurred in July 1942.  This event was known as the Vel d’Hiv Roundup.  I soon learned from listening to Stephani’s excellent expert assignment and also by doing my own research that between July 16-17, 1942 over 12,000 Jewish men, women, and children were defenselessly arrested and taken from their homes in Paris and other parts of France.  These people were brought to police stations and perhaps the most disturbing thing was that it wasn’t even the Nazis that were arresting the Jews in France, but the French police. The Vichy government was very much influenced by the German leaders, and was forced to co-operate with the orders that would come from Berlin in order to maintain what sovereignty it could manage to keep. After the war, the roundup became known as a symbol of French guilt and shameful compliance in the Holocaust. The terrible conditions the many victims faced in the camps they were later taken to were far too terrible for most people to even attempt to grasp, in terms of the lack of food, filthy water, and no place for them to go the bathroom. The prisoners were treated worse than POWs in most camps.

The artistry that is portrayed by the monument does an excellent job of illustrating such an atrocity, to the maximum extent that a monument can portray. The artist portrayed the victims as all appearing as if they are all in a state of disarray, including a woman holding suffering children, and one laying down on a suitcase, which I believe symbolized how they were all forced to leave their homes with almost no time to pack, and the exhaustion experienced by all. The faces of the individuals on the monument represent all the victims of the Vel d’Hiv Roundup as a collective whole. Below the monument, there is a plaque, and part of it reads “We will never forget.” I find France’s history to still be extremely prevalently embedded into its citizens’ memories even to present day, and feel like this quote is both very appropriate and symbolic of the French culture today.


What a Month!

Walking through walls

Walking through walls

How has my experience abroad affected me? Well, first off, before this trip I had never travelled outside the United States, taken a train, eaten duck, or experienced another country’s memory of war. After the first day in Paris I had accomplished all these things, except the duck. That came later. It is hardly enough to say that this has been a life-changing experience, one that has sparked my interest in so many areas of life. Above all else this trip has reaffirmed my desire to travel and experience as many different cultures and societies as possible.

It's pretty tall

It’s pretty tall

I learned a great deal while abroad, and was able to see firsthand, examples of things I had learned about in previous classes. Seeing the product of the campaign to beautify Paris, known as Haussmannization, was more than awe inspiring. One of the most important things I learned is the difference between how we perceive war and how other societies, particularly the French, perceive war. For me war has always been a somewhat distant construct. Even though my family members have served in the military and been deployed during war, it was still happening far away. For Europeans, war has been close, in their back yard, at their door step. It is a much more real entity for them, one that leaves a very physical memory. It was an amazing experience visiting some of the war memorials such as the memorial at Mont Valerien, and the American memorial at Normandy. Entering the memorials was humbling to say the least. I could not help but to feel the weight of what those hallowed grounds represent, and the tragic memories they pay tribute to.


Great sight from the river tour

Great sight from the river tour

So, how has my experience abroad affected me? How has it not affected me is the real question. I have such a strong desire to return, and explore even more of Paris, and Europe altogether.

Memorial at Omaha

Memorial at Omaha

The trip opened my eyes to how much history lies in the stone facades of the buildings, the sprawling fields where battles were fought, and the amount of memories waiting to be uncovered yet.



Personal Experience in Paris–by Bob Alexander

My personal experience on my Missouri S&T study abroad trip to Paris, France was one I will never forget.  It was my first time in Europe and I enjoyed myself very much.  French culture is definitely different.

The French seem to enjoy a more relaxed and slow-going lifestyle as opposed to ours in the U.S.  One thing I like is how the restaurants treat their customers.  They are very slow to bring the tab, which was a little annoying, and they seem to expect you to stay a while after you’ve finished your meal.  The servers and bar tenders at a few of the bars and restaurants I went to would even sit and visit with us if they had enough free time.  At home the servers want you to finish your meal quickly and expect you to leave immediately afterwards.

All I have ever heard about the French’s attitude towards Americans is not good.  The fact of the matter is that most people are nice anywhere and France is no exception.  Only in a few instances was anyone rude to me; as ironic as it might seem, it was a group of 3 policemen that ignored me and really irritated me.  I met many guys and gals at parties and various events with whom I hope to keep in contact.  I did have a few political discussions during which we discussed the U.S. government and American citizens.

Paris seemed to be a nice and clean town.  I found myself in a few sketchy parts of town and talked to a lot of people late at night but I never felt like there was any real threat wherever I was.  I think Paris is relatively safe considering how big it really is.

The biggest problem I faced while I stayed in France and Normandy was the language barrier.  Not being able to understand or read French was hard and I ate some strange foods that I did not really like due to my ignorance of the language.  Most French people were very accommodating and tried hard to help me understand what I didn’t know.

My professors Dr. Fogg and Dr. Langston explained to my travelmates and me that in addition to class work, this trip would allow us to enjoy and experience French culture.  Class was usually done by early afternoon or sometimes even before lunch and the weekends were completely free. My new friends and I were able to do whatever we pleased during this free time.  I chose to explore the public parks, such as the one where I got attacked by a squirrel,


and seeing some of Paris’s amazing monuments such as this one that marked the location of the Bastille.



The time between and after class was what made the Paris trip so fun and interesting.

All in all, I was very pleased with Missouri S&T’s travel abroad program.  The classes and program in general, were not time-demanding.  My professors were very fun and easygoing and only a few times did I feel like I was in a traditional class setting.  My trip to Paris really opened my eyes and gave me the opportunity to learn and see history first hand.  It was a good time.




28 Days Abroad

I left Missouri May 21st. My first stop was Rome, Italy, where I spent 4 days visiting as much as was possible in such a short period.  My next destination was Paris, France, where I was lucky enough to have 14 days’ worth of adventures. The next stop was Caen, where I would stay for 5 days. My final European destination was London and I was there for 3 days.  I returned to Kansas City, where I came from, June 17th. These 26 days plus the 2 days I spent on airplanes and in airports are my 28 days abroad.

Claire and I visited  St. Peter's Square

Claire and I visited St. Peter’s Square

Rome was an experience, to say the least! When Claire and I arrived in the airport we were immediately stricken by the feeling that Rome would be a challenge for us. Even though Claire can speak some German and I can speak some French the only four words we really knew in Italian were ciao, arrivederci, grazie, and scusi. While hello, goodbye, thank you, and excuse me are very important phrases to use, there are certainly many more words and phrases necessary for successful communication. Although we spent 4 days isolated and challenged we learned a lot and we saw some amazing sites. The Trevi Fountain, the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, and countess other wonders.100_5952

Once we arrived in Paris things seemed easy!! Maybe this was because I speak some French, or because most of the people we encountered speak English really well. The simplicity of navigating the city, thanks to its well-developed public transportation, surely enhanced our experience. Regardless of the reasons, Paris was a lot of fun since day 1.

Paris! The city of lights, love, and romance. There are certainly a lot of lights here, and surely plenty of public affection. However, above all, Paris is a city like most any other. The population of this great city is over 2.2 million people.  Just like Chicago, New York, or even Rome, Paris can be quite dirty despite its idealistic and beautiful reputation. Also, Paris smells. That being said, I found Paris to be wonderful!100_6319

There are so many distinct parts to Paris. Each neighborhood offers something new and usually exciting to explore. There were seemingly endless opportunities there whether it was a day exploring different museums or a night roaming to different clubs and bars. Courtney and I discovered that the first Sunday of the month all the museums in Paris are free to enter so we tried our best to take advantage of this. We were going to museum hop. Sadly, we only made it to one museum that day because we got caught up in enjoying the exhibits for VanGogh, Monet ,Renoir, Duras, and Georges Seurat that we never made it to another museum. It was awesome!

Caen, which is in northwestern France, was a very different experience from Paris. Although it is a very large city it had a more of a rural feel to it. The hotel where we stayed only had wireless internet in the lobby. We arrived in Caen on a Sunday when nothing in France seems to be open. Plus the public transportation stopped running much earlier than it did in Paris. I did not like Caen at first, but seeing the D-Day beaches and learning more about the battles that occurred there absolutely made the trip. Being in such beautiful places while imagining all the terrible things that happened there was just eerie.IMG_0774

London was the final destination in my adventure. Everyone is this city is super polite and talkative. Everywhere you go people want to talk, and they are immediately eager to help you have as much fun as possible. My favorite part of my visit was playing football in the park and hanging out there for hours.IMG_0686

Overall this trip has been a really great experience. I feel like I have had the opportunity to experience many new things and meet new people. Airports and buses seem to be a wonderful place to talk to people and learn about where they are from. Even just hanging out with the different people from my own campus was awesome! I got to interact with people I may have never crossed paths with had it not been for this trip. I also feel like a pro at traveling now. Most things that could go wrong on this trip have for me at some point. I experienced lost luggage, a flight delay, a weather delay, a terminal closed due to suspicious unattended baggage, a missed flight, and I have slept in an airport twice now.


Reflections on France

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter returning home from our study abroad trip I almost feel like a different person. This trip has changed my life and the way I view the world. I have seen how differently people live. In France the way they go through everyday life is different from the ways many Americans do. I learned so much from this trip and became so aware of the world around me. It feel completely different being in a new country where no one spoke English and where nothing was familiar, and I was amazed that there was so much history around me.

In France there was so much history to discover and even see. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe buildings there were all original and old, but of course, beautiful. I saw structures that have been around for thousands of years. Here in America most of our buildings are new and modern but in Europe they are old and full of amazing history. Being in France for three weeks taught me so much about France that I never knew before. Growing up and going to school I was never taught that much about the world around me and I was not aware about many countries unless they affected us in some way. Actually seeing the sites where history was made was unbelievable. After learning the French perspective I realized that they went through so much and lost so much in various wars, and every day it seems that they are reminded of what happened via all of their monuments and memorials.

Being in Europe for a month might seem like a long time but it went by way too fast. There is still so much I want to see and discover. This trip was the best thing I have ever done in my life, and I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of it.

Fun Times in France

American and French flags fly together

American and French flags fly together

My outlook on the world has changed in such a short period of time.  Leaving the US has brought more culture into my life, which I would not have experienced had I not gone on this trip.  The start of the trip was a little of a culture shock, but once I got used to how things happened in France everything became natural to me.  Before I went to France I had some bad opinions of French people.  The reason I had these opinions is because of the accounts about the French that I have heard from others, which turned out not to be true.  The French are very nice, especially if you ask for help with directions.  I met some very nice French people while in country and my opinions changed as soon as I met them.  I even found out that their opinions changed about Americans as soon as they met me, too.  In Caen, I met some college students who had some opinions about Americans that changed as soon as they met me.  I had some opinions that changed as well.

I think the most important thing that I learned about this trip is to not judge a people if you have not met anyone from that country before.  As soon as I got back I heard people talking badly about the French and I had to correct them because they have not been over there and experienced the things I have.  So I guess I am trying to say you should not judge someone until you know them because that judgement may be wrong.

Life-Changing Experience

IMG_2123This study abroad program has changed my life forever. I have traveled before but never to this extent and not with this much learning. I come from a German background so I have always had the perspective in my head that travel changes you. It wasn’t until this trip, however, that I learned about all of the different perspectives that are possible in the world.

Like most students from the American school system, I was not aware of other cultures’ histories unless they affected us. As a country we are only a little over 200 years old but during my travels I saw structures that have literally been here for thousands of years. Before this trip my sight was very narrow but now I can see so much more. There is a huge world out there and I can see that now. IMG_2442I have learned more about France in three weeks then I have in my entire life. I know that World War II was far more complicated than what our schools teach. There are many sides to that war and many different people involved in it. It was not a black and white war or a good versus evil war, like many believe. It was far more complicated than that as I have learned from the French’s perspective. There were those who did terrible things but there were far more people just trying to survive.

I traveled to over six countries in 30 days and have learned a vast amount about the world. The 30 days went by so fast and as soon as I got back it felt like a dream. I wish that dream had never ended.

Reflection on France: Study Abroad Experience

After arriving back in the U.S. this past Saturday, I’ve come to realize a huge gap in both social and historical culture between America and France. The experience has really impacted my views in a nearly indescribable way. It was almost an experience of going to another planet instead of just another country – a revelation of how diverse the world is in operation though everyone is effectively living similar lives. Not just now, but in contexts of the past – such as during the world wars – we share the same values of freedom and preservation of human life, paying the ultimate price to gain these basic rights. Every day spent in France, the overwhelming feelings of camaraderie in the face of adversity surfaced. Every location the students of Missouri S&T visited only served to peel the lid back on emotional barriers for us, with several students breaking out into tears – myself included – when taking in the gravity of standing on Omaha Beach in Normandy where thousands died on D-Day.

The American Cemetery

The American Cemetery

Taking a class at the university could never prepare someone for the things they might experience and feel when standing at the historical monuments in person. Yes, America has quite a few historical monuments that bring about similar feelings, but for France, World Wars I and II took place on their soil while we were an ocean away. Today’s American citizens could never compare such experiences of having their home country invaded and occupied, but for France the past still remains in the everyday of the citizens’ lives. Social order was heavily changed once France was occupied during World War II, with the weight of events still dictating how people act in social situations today by trying to have the utmost respect for another person despite differences so as not to repeat the mistakes made by others in the past.

Sky View from the top of the Eiffel Tower

Sky view from the top of the Eiffel Tower

In total, the experience of studying abroad has really changed my thoughts on several issues here in the U.S., and though it is a bit hard to explain the feelings one might gain through studying abroad, I insist everyone take the leap of experiencing another culture at least once in their lives. The world, as it turns out, is much bigger and brighter than one could ever imagine, and the past memories that mold our world can turn every thought around the minute you learn how oddly similar yet different we are.

Making globes during World War 2 - Caen Memorial Museum

Making globes during World War II – Caen Memorial Museum